After years of service, Calhoun sheriff says he's ready to hang up his badge
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After years of enforcing the law, Calhoun County Sheriff B.B. Browning is hanging up his badge.
The sheriff, who has been the head of Calhoun County law enforcement for 15 years, won't be running for re-election next year.
The tall, burly man who always has a friendly smile and warm eyes beneath the brim of his gray Stetson hat, said he's ready to let someone else wear the gold sheriff's badge on their chest.
"I'm going to kick back for a little while. I'm ready," he said.
Browning never imagined he'd find himself hanging up a sheriff's badge when he was a boy growing up in Lohn, Texas, a town of about 100 people where his mother worked as the post master.
As a kid, he was always hungry for structure and he knew from an early age he wanted to go into the military. After a stint at junior college and a year at Southwestern University, he decided to go for it and sign up for the army.
"I liked the structure. I guess that's what I liked about law enforcement too," he said.
He was in the service from 1959-63, and he meant to go back to school and become a football coach when he got out.
Life had other plans. Jobs were scarce and he ended up taking a job as an oil field technician. The job brought him to Port Lavaca and his first weekend in town he spotted a petite, curly-haired woman with sparkling brown eyes across the room at a dance. Her name was Tiney and she refused to give him her phone number, but he looked it up in the phone book and a few months later, they were married.
"It must have been love at first sight. It was that way for both of us," Browning said, his face lighting up.
They settled in Port Lavaca and started a family, a daughter and a son, and Browning went to work for Union Carbide. In 1974, Browning was appointed constable.
"I got appointed because i went to every commissioner and asked for the job. I really wanted it," he said.
He loved being in law enforcement. He kept his job at the plant, but he spent his spare time taking care of his duties as constable.
After a few years, the acting sheriff asked him if Browning wanted to run as his replacement. Browning told the sheriff he didn't think he was ready. When he was ready, Browning stepped up and threw his hat into the ring against the incumbent sheriff. Drugs were a problem in Calhoun County, and Browning campaigned by promising to fight the drug problem.
Drug addiction was a problem he had personal experience with. He was determined to staunch the flow of drugs into the county. He had seen the damage drugs could do, after helping a close family member grapple with addiction.
"I want to see young people grow up to be responsible citizens and I don't think a drug-addicted person can run the county. Drugs do a lot of damage. I can speak from personal experience," Browning said softly, looking down at his knotted fingers.
Browning keeps pictures of some of their big drug busts and a marijuana leaf, brown with age, under the glass top of his desk. This is what he has focused on, and the work he'll take pride in when he leaves office.
"I think we made a dent in it. There's always drugs present, but we got millions of dollars worth of drugs off the street," he said.
Mark Daigle, the chief deputy of the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office, had been served under four different sheriffs before Browning was elected to the office. When Browning took office, he put his policy of fair treatment into action, Daigle said. His philosophy was to be nice no matter what, to treat people with courtesy and respect, Daigle said. From the moment Browning put on the sheriff's badge, he led by example. Daigle said he learned a lot about how to treat people by watching Browning.
"He earns your respect. He doesn't demand it or expect it the way some people do. He earns it," Daigle said.
In January 2013, Browning will hand over the job to someone else. He'll have served 16 years as sheriff when his term is up. The best part has been people.
"The people are the best part. I always have enjoyed being with people, and meeting new people, and you meet all kinds of people at the sheriff's office," he said.
He said he's looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Tiney, and he may do a little fishing.
"It's about all I've known for the past 15 years, but I think I'll be able to get used to it," he said, chuckling.
It'll be a change though. He went from retiring from Union Carbide to taking the reins as sheriff without a break, but Browning said he has loved being sheriff.
"I'd do it all over again. I've enjoyed every bit of it," he said, with a wide grin.